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US House subcommittee rejects Peterson's latest OCS amendment

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 12 -- US Rep. John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) tried and failed again to have the oil and gas leasing moratorium affecting most of the US Outer Continental Shelf lifted.

Peterson's latest attempt came as the House Appropriations Committee's Interior Appropriations Subcommittee discussed the US Department of Interior's fiscal 2009 budget. His amendment would have lifted the moratorium on OCS leases 50-200 miles from shore.

Subcommittee members voted along party lines as nine Democrats voted against the proposal and six Republicans voted for it.

"While the American people continue to endure pain at the pump, begging Washington for relief, Democrats on the subcommittee voted to keep the status quo and continue with 27 years of failed policy that restricts domestic production of oil and natural gas offshore," Peterson said following the vote.

"The amendment I offered today was a clear opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to come together, in a bipartisan manner, to help stabilize the price of oil and natural gas, and eventually wean our dependence off foreign unstable countries," he said.

Peterson said he plans to offer the amendment again when the full committee marks up the DOI budget next week.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that the subcommittee's Democrats may have been voting in line with their party's leadership, "but they certainly weren't voting in line with the 104 million American families struggling to make ends meet in a world of $135[/bbl] oil, $4.05[/gal] gasoline, and nearly $5[/gal] diesel."

'Out of touch'
They don't recognize that these deep-sea resources belong to the American people, he maintained. "No other country in the world would even dream of locking away its most abundant energy reserves in an era of record-breaking energy prices. Leave it to this Congress to be this out of touch with the needs and interests of the American people," Blunt said.

Others also criticized the vote. American Public Gas Association Pres. Bert Kalisch said he was "deeply disappointed with the subcommittee's reluctance to provide environmentally responsible access to an abundant supply of domestic natural gas and provide consumers relief from high energy prices."

Kalisch warned that consumers could pay heavily next winter for gas being placed in storage now at prices of more than $12/Mcf. "The American natural gas consumer is clamoring for relief, which Congress has yet to provide," he said.

By voting against Peterson's amendment, the subcommittee opted to keep domestic supply restrictions in place when energy prices for US manufacturers and consumers are at record levels, National Association of Manufacturers Pres. John Engler said. "Even though natural gas prices are more than five times higher than in the late 1990s, House lawmakers missed a key opportunity to increase supplies of domestic gas and oil and ease the pain for energy consumers," he said.

The vote represents "a stunning missed opportunity for action that could have helped put America on a path toward a more affordable, secure energy future," said American Chemistry Council Pres. Jack N. Gerard. "The fact that US natural gas prices have skyrocketed 460% since 2000 has hit the chemistry business hard. Our energy costs have tripled from $25 billion in 1999 to $72 billion in 2007, and we've lost nearly 120,000 well-paying jobs, many of them to other nations where natural gas costs far less."

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